Bjarke Ingels Interview: Different Angles

Bjarke Ingels Interview: Different Angles

I mean the one thing that I've always known is that I was very good at drawing so I could always draw what I wanted to draw I like even from like kindergarten I was a lot better than the other kids in kindergarten and I think and I think sort of a this sort of Malcolm Gladwell Ian's idea the idea that you that you get positive feedback the first time you do something it makes you more enticed to keep doing it and then you will reach your 10,000 hours of practice quicker than anyone else and also because I was I was part of a group of siblings so I have a big sister and a little brother and my my sister's here with the musician I was sort of the artist or the graphic artist and my brother he was the mathematician as athlete if you like so good at poker and sports and and I think apart from that we all all three siblings are equally sort of intelligent we did well in school but we had like this one superpower that meant that we never competed the with each other as siblings there was always like how many because we each had our field and I don't know of it if that was like by chance or the fact that my sister was really good at playing the piano when I took piano lessons I it wasn't really for me so I always knew that I was going to be doing something with withdrawing so when I graduated from high school there was like different ways I could go also I've been like playing a lot of drama which of course is exciting this idea that you can express things that can captivate people and bring them into your world but I somehow knew that it would be a waste if I didn't do something that I had to do with drawing and it was unclear I was 18 years old it was unclear what that would be and mostly I was thinking about graphic novels but the graphic novel scene doesn't really exist in and then Mac so it would have involved a trip to Belgium most likely but for lack of a better plan I enrolled into the Royal Danish Academy School of Architecture and it was an art school at the time it's been more streamlined with the European and American standards but back then it was it was a like a liberal art school and the first two years were basic education and a lot of it about drawing so I thought at least enrolled for two years and and get much better at drawing the backgrounds because you can say you know as a kid growing up I had spent a lot of time drawing people in action like in in conflict or like animals in movement or vehicles helicopters planes whatever but not so much buildings and landscapes so I thought like I could take it would be the perfect missing piece to be able to really draw worlds and populate those worlds so um so I involved in the in the isolation school and and you know of course like it was sunny I was in this environment where everybody wants be an architect then I had no preconception about architecture so first I was like frustrated then I was curious and then eventually I got fascinated then enamored by architecture and and became an architect how much is architecture is still connected to drawing because if you look behind you you see computers all over everything is animated you have those 3d modeling this architecture flow from the hinge let's do when I think in at the end of the day I mean I think from the from the from the AIA from let's say from the mind to the hands to the paper is the fastest route and it is the most immediate form of communication but I think at the end of the day what it is like the pain is to depend on the paper as a tool to make the world see what you see or for you to see what you think before you've even seen it and there are other tools for doing that and like building physical models sometimes you know the immediacy of a phone model is that it's a very manipulative like the immediacy of Lego bricks but sometimes using materials that are harder to manipulate but have material attributes so you get more feedback from the material itself and then 3d models they have the beauty of scalability and precision and increasingly with fast processing and maybe VR we can also access that information so I think and then there's no projection drawings they show relationships and conversations they show with certain positions so I think each each medium is a way of approaching the same problem from a different angle or a way of observing that same problem from a different angle so so it's not like one tool is better than the other I mean at the end of the day we still build physical models left and right because somehow the physical model is the closest thing to what you're gonna build also even the way you put it together it could be that it's easy to model something in 3d that's like incredibly complicated but it's easy to do it but then once you have to manufacture it if you haven't tried building it by putting things together it's going to be hard to achieve the techtronic refinement or whatever so I think even the thought processes you have to go through in order to build the physical model will reveal a lot of problems and potentials that you wouldn't be able to catch if you were staying purely in in the virtual so so that since I think drawing is one is one way to get the the world of your imagination into a concrete reality but the but there's many ways to do it and of course like no better way than in one-to-one scale stacking real bricks and pouring real concrete when you enrolled in the Royal Academy in Copenhagen what kind of understanding of architecture did you meet because I know your friends typical for example was very frustrated the first two years and because it was very theoretical arty-farty and was first when he kind of went to Holland that he discovered another form of understanding of architecture which he was fascinated by yeah you have to remember I started the studying architecture in 1993 just to give you an idea when I graduated in 1999 out of a couple of hundred students graduating it was only me and a person from the design department that submitted printed boards everybody else submitted the you know photocopies of hand drawings so it was like a very very conservative I think still is a very conservative institution also back then the average beginning age like in the first year of architecture was 23 and I was 18 I was straight out of high school so so imagine that was on the first year so the average age for the whole school would have been like end of 20s so it was like rather you know relatively speaking old people for at least compared to an 18 year old and everybody was taking themselves like incredibly serious there was like not another inkling of self-irony and like a lot of pretension and then but with very little evidence to back it up and everybody would walk around and say that at the Yacht Academy was like the best actually school in the world and like yeah and then it was like it was very it was almost balcan eyes because like the art academy there was different professors that have different departments and because of the school was actually located on Kong's new troe in copenhagen behind the shell aden ball and right next to the Royal Theatre and located in these converted like bourgeois apartments so you would walk around in these back stairs and you would go into one apartment on department and you know another one like it was so there was it was very fragmented there was hardly any place where people could meet and there was like very little exchange between the different departments and there was like this sort of entrenched idea that all the other departments were doing it wrong and then there was like zero education like it was almost suspicious to to go to the library it was all about like this idea that it had to be original you had to do it yourself so actually me and a friend and I think maybe also like coming straight out of out of a more sort of you know book based education me and a another friend of mine we ended up spinning the first like two or three years in in the library because like nobody taught us anything there was no curriculum we somehow had to find the knowledge ourselves so we basically just went to the library and started pulling out random books from the shelves and and going through them and and in a way you even see like almost like reversed engineered our own curriculum because I mean what would happen is we would find an architect where somehow something about what they were doing spoke to us and then we would read the interviews and I remember like one of the first architects that I really got fascinated by it was actually a Frank Gehry but sort of the the older Frankie really the pre Guggenheim Bilbao Frank Gehry with all of this like rather classy raw material you know corrugated tin metal wire some of the work he did in Santa Monica and Venice and then you didn't do you know you would like read the interviews and you would read the essays and you would look at the footnotes and from the footnotes you would find other architects so you would you know through Frank Gehry I started like finding the other architects practicing in Los Angeles then you know I fell in love with you know at some point I am I got a copy of Avenue croakies with Benton Bagla so apparently he worked for Calatrava and first Hadid then you know I studied those two then sad deed had worked with with REM koolhaas so then you know I discovered I'm cooler so anyway it became this and you know Alejandro Sarah polo the Spanish architect who is like writing a lot of the interviews he didn't like the beautiful essay about I'm cool as where he's deconstructing everything or analyzing it through a sort of perspective of shield dealers and finish grad sorry so then I found you know a thousand plateaus so in a way in the complete absence of any premeditated curriculum me and my friend just started the almost like investigative journalism like you find something that speaks to you and then you try to understand it by following its sources and then those sources have other sources and in that sense you end up and at some point you know things connect like it was a it was kind of a powerful moment for me when I I had been reading Douglas Coupland you know Generation X microserver other stuff and I had been come a bit like found everything with or by M colas that I could find at some point I found a pretty big interview and portrait of M colas by Douglas Coupland and it felt like sort of – so basically the sort of journey of of connecting the dots and finding the dots yeah architecture was definitely disassociated from the rest of the world and it was I think also at that time the prevailing trends was some kind of neo modernism neo minimalism so the architects that that you look towards at the time was worth like from Finland Finland Spain Switzerland in in Denmark there was like zero experimentation there was like different compositions of boxes with with wood louvers on them pretty much and and I think sort of after after the failure of modernism let's say of the 70s in producing like all these satellite towns with very little diversity and that a lot of them quit Islam if I'd architecture had lost its confidence so instead of being about engaging with the big issues of society it was more about making a really nice box and and finding the perfect cherrywood for that box Mian and my partner and this minute we came back to Copenhagen from a year-and-a-half in Holland I've been working on the design of the Seattle Public Library she had been working on the design of the McCormick College Center and at IIT and we could get a teaching gig at the Art Academy in Copenhagen so that was like the funding we needed and then and then we just started doing open competitions and because we had like like zero living expenses we could actually sustain ourselves with a with half teaching salary and and in a way I think at the time I think the time was ripe in Copenhagen for a paradigm change I think in Copenhagen it has become common knowledge that there was no way you could start up a new practice there was roughly six big offices three in Copenhagen and three now whose and they took all of the Commission's so everybody knew that you could not really make you couldn't start a new office and succeed and the traditional catch-22 is that nobody is going to Commission you to do a building before you already build a building nobody's going to Commission to do a certain type of building because before you already done that type of building and nobody were really starting but I think in a way the the reason we could succeed was because the the thought process that got us to results that look different was was kind of practical pragmatic rational functional in a sort of almost Scandinavian tradition but maybe we were like slightly more bold in making a hyper rational conclusion that even though it looked really really different was an incredibly in line with the thought process that that took you there and what we said like you know it's the instead of like starting with the answer because we already know the answer let's let's start with all the questions and then answer those questions as carefully and rationally as we can but with with a certain bravery and boldness and with a let's say the an openness to be willing to accept answers that we didn't expect and with the ability to embrace consequences that we hadn't seen coming and I think in that sense we found a way for something new to actually enter the the sort of Danish I actually see I mean I think I just felt that like everybody knows like this is old pole crew love song where they're singing about the over in the park the other day there was like a dog but it wasn't supposed to like a war in the grass and like nobody was supposed to play like so the song is it goes through this whole series of like familiar situations and then there's always a man coming and say you're not supposed to do this in the park you're not supposed to do this in the park you can't walk on the grass you can't sit on the bench you can't and and maybe the world of architecture was a little bit like that at the time and I think we just felt that there was there was a lot of missed opportunities that could be embraced in it and I wouldn't I wouldn't necessarily because it's not only about play but I think play is one form of human expression and it's and it's quite important in the sense that it's play is this sort of non-scripted form of human expression that that that opens for discovery is how animals learn it's how children learn I mean of course an act is quite banal like you look whatever you do whatever you create it's it can be generous or it can be stingy you know it can be inviting or it can be exclusive so some that sense minim sort of story from my for my childhood growing up on this beautiful garden overlooking a lake with a small cigar box of a 1960s modern house or the flat roof and of course like because me and my friend could actually from the there was like a little hill we could reach the roof and walk around on the roof and my dad would yell us off so obviously because he was afraid that we were gonna fall down and break our necks but he was like explaining that you know you're not supposed to walk on the roof it it's not built for that that's you're gonna fall through but it was always for me that it was like a waste of opportunity and resources and enjoyment that you couldn't walk on the roof so I think in that sense you can say in a very but now really ever since I've been trying to build buildings where where you can actually walk on the roof and where you're actually supposed to walk on the roof but I think also like what one of the things I'm I'm realizing and maybe it's not relevant in this context but I've been thinking a little bit about this that it's quite clear I might I've always said that as an architect you're limited to how many buildings you can build because even if you are a frank area or find out right you'll only do maybe like 100 buildings or 200 buildings which is like nothing in in a planetary scale with 7 billion inhabitants 200 buildings doesn't make any difference but what you can do and what's infinitely scalable is actually the ideas that you put forward the things like it an idea that you put forward can inspire you know thousands of people the the way you approach certain problems and your attitude towards and even the example that you put forward power plant can have a ski slope on the roof a wastewater retention tank can actually be a cultural venue the flood protection of New York can be a public park those ideas like infinitely scalable and repeatable so in that sense again as an architect not only does the building you make matter but the example it puts out in the world metals may be even more like the rings that spreads out from it so in that sense for me it's it's both ways I like the city to be more diverse and accommodating and engaging and inviting but also by making it that it becomes a driving force for forcing the architectural vocabulary to expand for like so because at some point the more you demand from the building the less the neat nice cigar box fits the bill and you know by forcing the courtyard into the skyscraper suddenly the building has to be asymmetrical and warped pyramid disk to allow the sunlight and the views to enter the courtyard otherwise it would be a dark pit so it's not only about the performance it's also because like the enhanced performance demands difference from the design and therefore it becomes a way for the architecture explore forms and materials and conversations that you you would otherwise not be able to play with I just don't want to leave anyone thinking that it's like some kind of altruistic philanthropic or whatever politically correct approach I mean of course we want the buildings to do the best they can to be good citizens and to activate their environment but we also doing it because it makes the architecture more interesting because there's nothing more boring than if this suddenly becomes like a recipe and a checklist and say you have to be able to walk on the roof you have to be able to like you know be good to the children and and feed the dogs or whatever like and just like it and then you think just because you have that checklist you've done something interesting no maybe it's maybe it's good and maybe it's better than not doing it for sure but it only really starts singing it becomes art and architecture when it becomes architecture as an art form when it's somehow also forces the architecture to to transform in order to be able to accommodate all this and where the architecture then blatantly expresses its true nature and that sense if a building is exciting and full of possibility then that will be expressed in the in the architecture and I think that's when it becomes interesting I think this is true in life also but let's just say in architecture the fundamental thing that an active does is that he or she creates the framework for the life that we're gonna live and in doing so you can the way you put the walls and the columns and and the roofs and the floors and you can you can put them in such a way that they that they inhibit people in expression in themselves or in a way that they enable them you can also do something that is so perfectly tailored for just now that it freezes it becomes a freeze-frame of how the world and how life is now and it will restrict you from being able to evolve in a year or two or ten or 20 or 100 so that's another thing it's like even the best intended framework can be restrictive if it if it is if it is too specific and it doesn't leave any wiggle room for life to evolve we're actually exploring different strategies right now that deal with this idea of how does a building remain relevant one of them is you know the more the more care and the more character you you give a building the more it will it will actually sort of inspire the care of its inhabitants and the more it will survive even when its function becomes obsolete which is almost inevitable in for any building that at some point whatever it was built for is no longer gonna be its purpose then if it built the building actually has qualities in its bones that go beyond its ability to execute its original program the more people will actually find it worth it to spend the resources on repurposing it rather than tearing it down and building anyone I think the building has the character like a good building has the character or personality that is that was somehow the result of the unique set of ingredients that that triggered its conception so the way it responds to its sights to its neighbors to its views to its landscapes to its local environment to the to the Sun to the weather whatever trigger the building but that unique set of ingredients becomes almost like the DNA of that particular building and like any life form it becomes in the best case the the most wonderful beautiful expression of that particular DNA and and that's why I think like great buildings they blatantly express their true essence to the world and things like you know if you take the courts great but that we just finished down on West 57th Street in New York it's a it's it's it was conceived it's a single block on the on the West Side Highway and it's surrounded by a highway a power plant and a sanitation garage but it also is facing south and west and it has views of the water so we can we came up with the idea to make a courtyard a typical European building type with an oasis in the middle but then to give it the density of a skyscraper we lifted up the northeast corner so it describes is a warped pyramid and it actually brings Sun a sunlight from the south and the West into the courtyard and views over the water so it's a striking silhouette that gives it a lot of character on on the waterfront of New York and when you see it now you will suspect that it was designed as a landmark you know it's all about the exterior of the building but in fact it was the creation and the framing of the courtyard that is protected from the noise of the highway that gets sunlight and air and views the the framing of that courtyard is what created the architecture and the courtyard becomes like when you enter it now it becomes this like wonderful secret oasis in the middle of the city but anyway what makes that building striking or gives it character and personality is that it blatantly expresses the the DNA the set of ingredients that gave rise to its its form if you design for the lowest common denominator or if you design for the fear of not having resale value or not fitting in with the majority then you will most likely end up with buildings that will most likely be torn down in short why because like there's no reason to preserve them whereas when you design something that comes to the world with a very clear character and with a some strong decision and some strong choices then that building will be a a beautiful experiment in one way of doing things and therefore it will lend itself to to being refurbished and accommodate change over time I had this like experience like him 2 or 3 years ago like right before the the Middle East in Syria and Iraq exploded with Isis I was actually invited to Kurdistan the North province of Iraq to look at the the designing their government city and a project that has obviously been put on hold since then but we went to the very north of Kurdistan into the mountains and we found this village where there was a synagogue there was two thousand seven hundred fifty years old and it was a ruin there was a hole in the roof but you know the masonry was still kind of beautiful and I noticed that actually the the metalwork was still there I was like rusting away but like the chandeliers and the the candle holders were still there and I asked sort of so when when did it turn into ruin ruined it when did it stop function as a synagogue and I said in the late 50s when the environment for Jews in Iraq got more hostile and when this the State of Israel was open all of the Jews of that village moved to Israel and that was just like a mind boggling to me that it had actually been existing for 2700 years fully functional and then in just 50 years it turned into ruin and that's because like the second it was no longer relevant for the people living around it or inhabiting it it turned to ruin because when there was only Muslims nobody took care of the synagogue and and that's basically the and an interesting lesson is that you can actually as an active design a structure that's gonna last forever but only if it remains relevant to the people inhabiting or using it because then they'll care for it and they'll take care of it but even the pyramids turned to ruins even though they're like stacks of stone they're like practically indestructible but because you're there just like a tomb for like a pharaoh that's no longer relevant they turn to ruin whereas you have on the Faroe Islands you have wooden buildings that have existed for like half a millennium even though no part of the building can last that long but because they've been continually inhabited they've been cared for and they've lasted potentially forever the one thing all humans share at least so far is that we all inhabit the same the same limited amount of real estate which is planet Earth and in that sense if you say like life evolved in Darwinian perspective by adapting to the environment that you know first to the ocean then you know to the to the land then to the trees then to the savanna and then the monkey became man but then once we liberated our front paws and they got opposing thumbs and became capable of manipulating material and we invented tools technology and architecture we actually got the power to adapt the environment to life so instead of life adapting to the physical surroundings life could suddenly adapt the physical surroundings to life and that's of course like a tremendous power and then in that sense we found ways of doing that by building buildings and cities and organizing landscapes building dams you know turning like forest land into farmland like all these things to the point where you talk about the current era as the Anthropocene which is the geological era where the biggest force influencing geological transformations of the planet today come from humans so it is really difficult to farm land new dams that like flood valleys and create new lakes and forced populations to migrate increasing temperatures that forces like glacier to recede or the permafrost to move north and all these things and a lot of them are sort of unanticipated the negative side effects of of the intrapersonal like the omnipresence of mankind but it also just shows that we actually have in a way like the good news is that if we have the power to radically transform our planet by accident imagine what we can do if we're actually trying to do it so in that sense that there's there's an amazing like once you've accepted that there's no way we can be here without having a very very significant influence on our planet we just have to take it as a positive instead of having unanticipated unanticipated negative social and environmental side effects we should design our world so that we have positive social and environmental side effects and then I think one of the things but the beauty about the human project is that depending on when you start counting from but I think a National Geographic have something called the the genome graphic project the National Geographic project where they trace the migration of mankind from East Africa and I think they have an EVE human specimen originating in East Africa 60,000 years ago the good thing about having 60,000 years of practice is that we've already run a lot of experiments on different parts of the planet and therefore we've already learned a lot of things and therefore it is very meaningful for an architect to study the local culture and the local architecture and the vernacular architecture of the local region to understand how have this population found ways to respond to the local climate in ways that makes this part of the world really enjoyable to mankind and to use that as a source of inspiration one of the things that's true in an increasingly globalized world is that since police has significance and since climate local climate local landscape local materials have significance I would say the problem of modernism and the idea vents international style was that building started looking the same everywhere and that became like a loss of local character and specificity it also became a failed response to the local environment to the local culture to the local climate where as I do think that that since different cities have different cultural and ethnic and you know religious national compositions each and they also have radically different climates anyway each city becomes a very specific experiment and how to inhabit this particular part of the planet for this particular group of people I think we're where this idea becomes interesting is that once you start to look at the planet as having different landscapes and different climates you'll also find that there's certain situations that in very very different parts of the world with very may may be very different cultures may be the landscape and the client climate is very similar so there's actually lessons to be learned here that can be applied here and vice-versa but but again I also like this idea that if you look at the world as an ongoing experiment of how to inhabit this limited amount of real estate then I actually do think that's why artists go on study trips but you could actually imagine sort of almost like a sort of catalogue of global best practices that you know like you know Copenhagen and Melbourne and Sydney they've only sorry New York Melbourne and Sydney having caught the bicycle lanes of Copenhagen in Australia they called them Copenhagen lanes but it's essentially this idea to to to walk the earth and see how people have found ways of organizing their cities and then actually some once in a while to get inspired and say like that's a great idea let's take that and bring it here but of course the bicycle lanes and/or the Copenhagen lanes in in Australia and Melbourne are gonna be a Melbourne and Sydney are gonna be unlike anything you've seen in Copenhagen because as soon as they arrive to Australia it's a different climate different landscape and and therefore the result is going to be of a completely different character let's say since since agitation at the core is the constant accommodation of where human life has come to and it's this ongoing project you know the city we inherit is not in a perfect finished state it's actually a constant work in progress and as life as human life evolves so should our cities evolve with them and since our cities are not about accommodating a single mindset a single ethnicity a single gender a single religion a single culture a single language group but you know as a single profession but about accommodating a huge plethora of different different points of views different life forms it shouldn't be singular and dogmatic it should actually be you know well open open-ended and you know what almost like empathic it should be able to empathize and accommodate so many so many differences and I think in that sense most radical movements and this is true in the arts and architecture as well suffer from from from bigotry actually and you often hear one one highly opinionated but self-righteous point of view accusing the other side of being bigots you are like the clad layer the traditional left-wing activist is driven by anger right you like somehow really or paranoia you know I some kind of idea about conspiracy or some kind of frustration about the powerlessness or some kind of anger that all the other ones getting everything or like and so that's the stereotypical that revolutionary is somehow and the angry young man or woman rebelling against the establishment and I was never like really that angry and I and I think because like almost in in any situation I can actually understand the different points of view not that I necessarily agree but I can sort of empathize and understand why is this person acting the way he or she is why is this institution acting the way it is and I think that allows you to so in the beginning I thought it was weakness on my part that I was because I mean I could see the power that comes with being incredibly opinionated and you know myopically you know almost like prejudice about your own point of view but but actually there is an incredible power in in not being so dogmatic but actually being sort of open minded enough to sort of sort of listen to and understand what is this person saying or what is that group afraid of what are these guys trying to secure and I think that sounds like at the end of the day empathy is definitely the one of the biggest superpowers that you can have almost in any field but I think especially in architecture which is essentially the the art and science of accommodation is that in order to be able to accommodate people and different kinds of people you have to be able to understand and empathize with

42 thoughts on “Bjarke Ingels Interview: Different Angles

  1. as an architect you should be concerned with the environment where you build and not with the vanities of what you are or cease to be! biatch

  2. Wow! Completely self thought and now single handedly changing the discourse of architecture and teaching everybody that you can be so innovative and daring as to design the potential to walk or ski on roofs.
    All this genius in one man, and yet he is so humble and modest. What a brilliant person. Thanks so much for all you've done for architecture Bjarke.

  3. 4:23 Frustrated, Curious, Became fascinated about architecture… I guess most of Architecture community experience that ๐Ÿ˜Š

  4. 4:23 Frustrated, Curious, Became Passionate about architecture… I guess most of Architecture community experience that ๐Ÿ˜Š

  5. i was good at drawing to and then i forgot about until i am now 42 and regretting not be working in the art field. itโ€™s too late now i cannot go back.

  6. I came to watch an interview on architecture but I got so much more. Bjarke Ingels is a beautiful man and great leader.

  7. I am really happy about this content,- very interesting thoughts and facts here. ๐Ÿ’กโญ๏ธโœŒ๐Ÿป

  8. ๋ฉ‹์ง„ ์˜์ƒ ์ž˜ ๋ณด๊ณ  ๊ฐ‘๋‹ˆ๋‹ค.^^

  9. Great Stuff. A ton of things to learn from the legend Bjarke Ingels. I wish if i could ever meet you. @BjarkeIngels

  10. Idiot who thinks he's Hispanic. That's not a Danish accent. Danish accent sounds more like Frank Lopez from "Scarface." LMAO
    Stupid idiot.
    Probably thinks he's not white.
    No, Italians, French are supposed to sound like him when he speaks English.

  11. Scandinavian grasp of my language always impresses me. They speak it somewhat differently than I, however never sound foreign. It feels like english is something we share rather than something they borrowed.

  12. Bjarke gives us a good answer to solve the big problem that nobody is going to commission you to do a building before you already build a building.

  13. Bjark, very profound comment at @ 29:00 that "buildings (substantial) should outlast their original purpose", thus be able to be re-purposed" for a future function, that is so true. It's what I deal with every day. Good bones with a good core. IBC, ADA done, established?

  14. There is no thing interesting about your story except you found who can build your concepts support you and make them real

  15. art and science of accomodation???? his last two buildings in new york city cater to the super rich. an apartment in any of them are out of the income range of middle class new yorkers. where's the empathy?

  16. Hello, this is a new site for architecture enthusiasts. We will be uploading pictures of buildings and their information.

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